My brother, Ric, me and Mom at her surprise 80th birthday party, December 2007
However, this empathy and support does not make the decision to keep my mom in a skilled care facility (a.k.a., nursing home)--and all the self-doubt, denial, and sorrow that accompanies this move--much easier.
Until four months ago, at the end of December 2012, my mom was an independent woman with moderate to severe COPD. With a little housekeeping and errand-running help from me, she was able to maintain her own apartment, manage her own health care needs and finances, and drive. When she became ill, her short-term memory and problem-solving/processing information was affected. Due to her now-severe COPD, Mom is on oxygen 24/7. She is tired a lot, which can be most likely attributed to congestive heart failure. She becomes winded when performing daily tasks like transferring from her wheelchair to the toilet, dressing/undressing, and standing for a few minutes in the shower. The edema that pools in her lower legs requires her legs to be wrapped by a nurse every day in the morning. She doesn't remember what day it is nor what she did that day, and it usually takes some thought to remember what she ate for the previous meal. She doesn't remember some of the names of people she's known for a long time, nor can she remember the names of people with whom she's shared her transitional care room or the nurses and aides who care for her on a daily basis. Sometimes, what she doesn't remember, she'll make up.
I don't know if she would remember how to set up her medications and take them at the correct time each day. I don't know if she would know how to contact someone if I were not available and she had an emergency--as it is, she calls me when she needs help, even when she could be helped by an aide or nurse. I don't know if she would remember how to drive to her doctor and hairdresser's salon, nor do I want her to take the risk to find out. I don't know if she would remember to pay her bills. Many daily living activities that Mom was able to perform on her own a year ago she cannot do now. She is generally cognizant of these changes, but I do not know to what extent she is aware of what the changes are, how they affect her, or what implications result from these changes.
It's heartbreaking to witness these changes and be essentially powerless to do anything to change or stop them from occurring.
I'm doing my best to not only advocate for my mom, but also keep her dignity and pride intact. It's a difficult balance, trying to keep her life enjoyable and level. The sacrifice is my own time and life, with which--up until now--I've been able to be somewhat selfish.
In essence, this daughter has become her mother's mother. When I get angry with this situation in my life, I remember that 43 years ago, my mom and dad gave me life to help others. They gave me two hands, feet, lungs, eyes, and ears, and one mouth, mind, and heart. With these gifts and others, and all everything they support, I will continue to help my mom live the rest of her time with us as comfortably, happily, and safely as I know how to do. My friends, and all the gifts and support they share with me, also give me the strength and fortitude to make this possible. They help me have faith, strength, and courage to do this difficult work.
Thank you. I hope you all know who you are.
My bestie, Tammy, and me painted up with flour and baking, June 2012